Not Worth Quoting
“Words are neutral.” You’ve heard it a thousand times. “What’s in a name?” A thousand and one. “Nerds”, “Geeks”, “n00bs”… They are words. They are names. And, they carry more sticks and stones than we realize.
Program or Be Programmed
Words are the vehicles of feelings and intentions, but who decides what those feelings and intentions are? Our culture and society have pre-programmed meanings for certain words. These words are not really variables; after a while they become hard-coded commands that produce certain results. It is very difficult to change these results across the board. While we can limit the access that these commands have on us personally, it is a much greater task to fix this problem in our community. But, if we do not take action, then we risk being subject to the programming of the rest of society, and the words that go with it.
The solution is probably not to destroy society and rebuild it from the ground up, but rather we can learn to disassociate. I’m not talking about just disassociating meanings from words, but we also need to disassociate ourselves from certain words. We can’t go around calling ourselves names in order to “take them back”. The connotation cannot be erased entirely.
Let’s look at a few words.
- Popular definition: Someone who does particularly well in academics or other measurable subject, often evident by their high tests scores or frequent studying. Preferably wears corrective lenses.
- Translation: Someone who enjoys learning, is reasonably intelligent, prefers not to crash when he/she drives.
- Popular definition: Someone who is into computers, electronics, science fiction, video games, or other non-physical activity.
- Translation: Someone who is a social network user, cell phone user, and/or is interested in industry-changing films and complex forms of digital entertainment.
According to my definitions a high percentage of the developed world is made up of nerds and geeks. To be fair, these terms are often associated with people who are socially awkward or “abnormal”, but it is not clear, especially when your smart phone gets more attention than your date.
I think the point is that words can be ambiguous, but when they spawn out of hate or negativity, then there isn’t really any reconciliation available.
Hacks On Hacks Off
Get your hack on, by hacking off derogatory words from your vocabulary and community.
“Hacking” is another term that is often associated with something negative, but it is often incorrectly associated with crime before anything else.
It starts with you. Don’t use words incorrectly, and don’t take the bait when others try to label you incorrectly. The fact is that we don’t know what one word means to another person. More often than not, the common definition is more believable than the “proper” definition.
Why is any of this worth talking about? Well, words like “Ubuntu” are still unknown to many people in the world. Those of us in the Ubuntu community have the chance to program the response to the word. How do you want your local community to react to “Ubuntu”? And, how do you want the rest of the world to react to your local community? It is worth thinking about if you want your community to survive.